All 7 Lord Dubs contributions to the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021

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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Wednesday 11th November 2020

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I very much agree with the comments about torture that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, just made. I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which has just published its report on the Bill, and my comments are based largely on the evidence sessions and the final report.

I say at the outset that it is clearly welcome that the authorisation of criminal conduct by covert human intelligence sources should be put on a statutory footing. The justification is that through covert sources terrorist attempts have been prevented and lives have been saved, class A drugs, firearms and ammunition have been seized, and child sexual exploitation has been thwarted. All that is important, and that is the benefit of this Bill.

On the other hand, there have been some shocking instances of undercover activity in the past which should never be allowed to happen again. For example, there was the murder of Pat Finucane in Northern Ireland with the apparent complicity of undercover agents and, more recently, the surveillance of the Lawrence family after the racist murder of their son Stephen. It is quite unacceptable that a family such as that, victims of a most horrible crime, should be put under police surveillance. There are other incidents in the past, such as during the miners’ strike at the Orgreave coking plant.

As it stands, the Bill leaves open the possibility of serious crimes being committed through the granting of powers to authorise crimes more widely. That risks violating human rights, which surely means we have a responsibility to add many safeguards to the Bill. It should indicate a list of certain types of offences that should simply not be authorised. I am told that, if we had that list—as the Minister said at the outset—it would alert criminals to the way in which they can identify whether there is an undercover person working in their organisation. I think the safeguards can be built in; it has been done elsewhere, such as in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act. If it can be done there, we can surely adopt it as well.

I share the concerns about children. Children must surely be part of this covert process only in exceptional circumstances.

Extending authorisations to situations where there are no criminal threats risks unjustified interference in the activities of trade unions and other legitimate activists, and can affect the right to free expression and free assembly. In passing, I mention the criticism that senior members of the Government have made of “activist lawyers”; are they to be put under this sort of surveillance? I hope not.

The Bill will go way beyond the authorisation of criminal conduct by the security and intelligence services and the police. The power to authorise conduct should be restricted to public authorities whose core function is protecting national security and fighting serious crime. That should not include the Environment Agency, HMRC, the DHSC, the FSA, the Gambling Commission and others. It is also unacceptable for the Bill to provide authorisation of crime with fewer safeguards than exist at the moment for phone-tapping or the authorisation of search warrants. Those require a preliminary process, which is surely a safeguard which should be applied to the authorisation of crime. There should be prior judicial approval, except for urgent cases.

Finally, I am concerned about the victims and civil liability. I appreciate why this is a difficult area, but we should at least include provision for the indemnification of victims, who should be able to obtain compensation for losses suffered as a result of authorised crime.

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Tuesday 24th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Massey of Darwen Portrait Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, with his eloquence and experience. I shall speak to Amendment 8.

I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. This committee scrutinised the Bill, received expert opinion on it and made the report referred to earlier, most recently by my noble and learned friend Lord Falconer of Thoroton. This report raises many issues of human rights that will need to be teased out and possibly resolved as we go through this Bill.

Amendment 8 is there so that victims of criminal conduct carried out under criminal conduct authorisation can access compensation. This is from paragraphs 104 to 110 in chapter 8 of the report. The report notes that the Bill as introduced is potentially incompatible with human rights legislation. Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights requires the UK to secure the rights of all those within its jurisdiction, including victims of crime. Where crime also amounts to a human rights violation, the victim has a right to an “effective remedy” under Article 13, mentioned earlier. A victim also has a right, under Article 6, to have any claim relating to his or her civil rights and obligations brought before a court or tribunal.

Since the Bill would render all authorised criminal conduct “lawful for all purposes”, it would prevent a victim of authorised crime vindicating their rights by bringing a civil claim for compensation. It would seemingly also prevent a claim for compensation under the criminal injuries compensation scheme.

My amendment mirrors the regime in Australia, which, as the report states,

“provides indemnification for any participant who incurs civil liability in the course of an undercover operation.”

In other words, a civil claim can be brought against the perpetrator by the victim, and compensation secured, but the state will then step in to indemnify the perpetrator against his or her losses. The effect of this provision would be to ensure that the person authorised to carry out criminal conduct

“would not suffer the consequences of civil liability, but it would also ensure that the victim of the conduct would obtain civil redress while secrecy is maintained.”

This Bill has been described as promoting the concept of “one size fits all”, framed more eloquently by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti. It is simply not acceptable or possible to do that. In relation to my Amendment 8, I have mentioned specific issues on human rights legislation, which is the core of the report I have quoted today. I look forward to the Minister’s response.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am also a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, along with my noble friend Lady Massey, and I am speaking in support of Amendment 8. My noble friend has put the case so well that I am just going to add one or two very minor comments. I am going to do so by quoting from the recommendations in the report that the Joint Committee put forward—a report that has set the tone for much of the debate and many of the amendments that we are discussing today. To quote from the recommendations:

“By rendering criminal conduct lawful for all purposes, the Bill goes further than the existing MI5 policy by removing prosecutorial discretion. The reason for this change in policy has not been made clear. It has significant ramifications for the rights of victims. The Government has missed an opportunity to include within the Bill provision for victims of authorised criminal conduct, both legally and practically. This is another reason why the Bill requires additional safeguards to ensure there can be no authorisation of serious criminality.”


I will go on very briefly to the next recommendation in the Joint Committee’s report, which is:

“The Government must explain why the existing policy on criminal responsibility, which retained prosecutorial discretion, has been altered in the Bill to a complete immunity. Victims’ rights must be protected by amending the Bill to ensure that serious criminal offences cannot be authorised. In respect of civil liability, the Government must confirm that authorising bodies will accept legal responsibility for human rights breaches by CHIS or alter the Bill to provide that CHIS will be indemnified rather than made immune from liability.”


This is a very clear proposal, and this is a very clear amendment that would safeguard the rights of individuals who will otherwise have no rights left if the Bill goes through unamended.

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Moved by
11: Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert—
“(1A) Authorisations granted under this section require judicial approval in accordance with section 29C.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment imposes a requirement for prior judicial approval of CCAs (with provision for urgent cases), and relates to the amendment to Clause 1, page 3, line 16 in the name of Lord Dubs.
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I remind the Committee again of my membership of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the fact that the amendments in this group stem from the committee’s report, published some time ago, looking into the overall workings of the Bill.

There is widespread agreement that there should be oversight of criminal conduct authorisations. However, there is a dispute over whether that oversight should take place after or before the event. The point of the amendment is that there should be a requirement for prior judicial approval of such authorisations, with a possible provision for urgent cases in exceptional circumstances. The Bill does not provide for any independent scrutiny of criminal conduct authorisations before they are made and acted upon. There is the possibility of a review of such authorisations through the Investigatory Powers Commissioner but that would be after the event, by which time it is too late to influence whether an authorisation should have been granted. Nor does the Bill provide for the IPC to be informed of authorisations at the time they are made so that proper scrutiny can take place. That is surely the nub of the matter. Under the Bill, there would be no chance to look at authorisations until some time after the event.

The Joint Committee on Human Rights report stated that the lack of prior independent scrutiny for CCAs under the Bill stands in marked contrast to the procedures in place for other investigative functions such as police search warrants and phone tapping. That was mentioned at Second Reading. The noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, a former Director of Public Prosecutions, has stated:

“Under this bill it will be easier for a police officer to commit a serious crime than to tap a phone or search a shed.”


That is a pretty powerful statement. The powers of oversight are not proportionate to what is at stake, which is much more crucial than deciding whether the police can tap a phone or search a shed, important as those things are.

I should like to give a number of examples. If we had had oversight before the event, certain procedures would not have been followed. The most obvious was in Northern Ireland in relation to the death of Patrick Finucane and looked at in a report by Sir Desmond de Silva QC. He made a number of important points about the need for proper scrutiny of the powers being exercised, which would be exercised more freely, I contend, under the Bill. He said in his report:

“It is essential that the involvement of agents in serious criminal offences can always be reviewed and investigated and that allegations of collusion with terrorist groups are rigorously pursued.”


He did not quite say that that should happen before the event, but I contend that if it had been possible to do so, the tragic death of Patrick Finucane might not have happened and things would have been stopped in their tracks. Sir Desmond made some powerful conclusions that are entirely consistent with the requirements of human rights law. I will not quote all his comments, but the key question asked by the JCHR report is:

“Does the Bill provide the rigorous framework of oversight and accountability necessary to safeguard against abuse of the exceptional power to authorise criminal conduct?”


The committee also received evidence from the human rights organisation, Justice, which described the Bill as being,

“extremely limited in its oversight mechanisms”

and summarised its safeguards as “woefully inadequate”.

We all know about the tragic racist murder of Stephen Lawrence. The Lawrence family was apparently kept under surveillance afterwards. I contend that if there had been a proper system of oversight before that type of surveillance was exercised, it would not have been allowed and would have been stopped in its tracks, yet it went unheeded. I fear that anything similar would not be stopped by the safeguards in the Bill because they are woefully inadequate, as Justice said.

The third group of surveillance victims would be trade unions and other active organisations. We know that trade unions and environmental groups have been kept under surveillance. Those things would not have happened if such an amendment had been in place. It seems perfectly reasonable to require the tightest oversight of such extreme powers in a democracy—they are not minor powers—before the event. If something is being authorised that should not be, we would have at least one layer of safeguard to stop it going any further.

Amendment 59 is a let-out, providing that urgent CCAs can be granted without prior approval but must be confirmed by a judicial commissioner within 48 hours of being granted or they will cease to be valid. These powers would be applied only when there is an urgent case.

It is clear that whereas we all agree on oversight, what really matters is oversight before the event. The Bill must be amended to include a mechanism for prior judicial approval of CCAs in order to safeguard the human rights that we all believe in. I beg to move.

Baroness Kennedy of Shaws Portrait Baroness Kennedy of The Shaws (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, by and large, I endorse what my noble friend Lord Dubs said. It is right that there need to be greater safeguards than there are in the Bill, which are not sufficient. Having public bodies essentially authorise themselves to conduct surveillance and undercover operations is unsatisfactory.

Criminal conduct authorisations are particularly invasive and warrant more scrutiny. The lack of scrutiny could be remedied by introducing approval from a judicial commissioner. This is where I am refining what my noble friend is asking for. I should declare that I am the president of Justice, which has carried out a significant amount of work on this issue and is the organisation that brings the legal profession’s expertise to it. It is suggested that there is already a cohort of very experienced judges who are used to dealing with difficult, sensitive material, as there would be in these cases.

We recommend that there should be judicial commissioners who are expert judges, senior in the profession, experienced in making quick decisions on sensitive material and—I say this in relation to the urgency issues so that my noble friend Lord Dubs can take that off the table—are available 24/7 when necessary. It is a bit like the need for judges to be on call for injunctions: if something comes up and there is a need for urgency they can deal with that because they have the expertise to sift difficult material and make complex decisions. It is important to emphasise that they are already part of the Investigatory Powers Commissioner’s Office. There is no reason why they cannot adapt. Judges are eminently adaptable, especially when they are of this seniority and experience, where they can do it as a prior scrutiny operation. They are used to dealing with these types of difficult operations and they are not junior members of the judiciary. I am anxious that my noble friend’s suggestions might lead to rather low-level judges overseeing this. They tend to be more inclined to accept things that the police and security services say to them.

For those reasons, I make the plea that the Government look at judicial commissioners as the appropriate place for creating some kind of proper scrutiny. Unfortunately, the Government are currently saying that there is no need for authorisation from a judge or judicial commissioner by way of a warrant, nor approval by the Secretary of State. The flaw in all this is that they are saying that it is enough, as the main safeguard against a public body carrying out unjustified surveillance or inappropriate undercover operations, for a senior official in their own organisation to authorise it. I am afraid that is marking your own homework. Even the most diligent official can struggle to be objective under pressure, particularly if their organisation has to meet targets or achieve certain results because of public demand at a particular time. We sometimes see that in relation to things such as terrorism.

The pre-existing safeguards in the present RIPA regime are already insufficient for the creation of undercover agent operations. Judicial approval is all the more necessary for the exercise of this new power. The Government claim that prior judicial authorisation is not necessary. James Brokenshire MP, the Minister for Security, only last month said in the House of Commons:

“The use of CHIS requires deep expertise and close consideration of the personal qualities”


of that particular undercover operation,

“which then enables very precise and safe tasking.”—[Official Report, Commons, 5/10/20; col. 662.]

I am sure that that is true, but this argument, which prioritises operational need over independent assessment, is not convincing. There is a significant difference between authorising passive undercover observation and proactive criminal conduct.

Our former Director of Public Prosecutions, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, has been quoted already. He agrees with me and my noble friend Lord Dubs that there has to be much better scrutiny. He would actually go further than my noble friend and thinks that it has to be at a high level. He says:

“There is no comfort in allowing senior figures in the police or the intelligence agencies the power to sanction lawbreaking, without the need to first obtain independent warrants from judges or some other”


judicial “authority”.

The benefits of judicial authorisation are further detailed in the case of Szabó and Vissy v Hungary, where the court held that it offers the best guarantees of independence, impartiality and a proper procedure. It is particularly pertinent in the case of surveillance, which is, to quote from that case,

“a field where abuse is potentially so easy in individual cases and could have such harmful consequences for democratic society”.

The quote concludes that

“it is in principle desirable to entrust supervisory control to a judge”.

Such scrutiny could be highly compelling for the potential use of CCAs.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful for the way in which the Minister so helpfully explained the Government’s position and made a concession on one of the amendments. Like everyone else, I regret that the debate was split over two days. It gave me the slight advantage that I could read the whole transcript of the first day’s discussion on this amendment, but I am not sure that it has helped me very much in the short contribution I want to make.

We have heard some very impressive contributions indeed to this debate, and I cannot match for a second the enormous legal experience or the experience of our security services, as evidenced by my noble friend Lord Hain, former Secretary of State, and other senior Ministers. All I can do is say that my Amendment 11 stems from the Joint Committee on Human Rights report, which I still believe is a very helpful background to this debate and points the way forward, in ways that are not entirely in line with the speech that the Minister just made.

It seems to me that the nub of the issue in this group of amendments is still whether approval should be prior or after the event, or in real time, as has been said. I cannot help feeling that the argument for prior approval has not been put forward as widely as I would have hoped. We are told that prior approval would prejudice an effective operation. I am really not convinced by that argument—or at least I do not have the experience to understand it fully.

My noble friend Lord Rooker said we are not talking about history. There is a reason some of us mentioned the investigation by the police into the Lawrence family after the racist murder of their son Stephen, and why we are concerned, as my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti said, about the lack of an inquiry into the Finucane case, as announced by the Northern Ireland Secretary yesterday. The reason we cite those two is because they are the two that are in the public domain and that we know about. Other Members of this House have experience of a wider range of cases that, for obvious reasons, they cannot talk about in any detail. I make no apology for saying that, if any one of us in this House had had prior oversight of the investigation into the Lawrence family following the murder of their son, we would all have said, “No, that is unacceptable”. After all, the only point of prior oversight is that it can stop something in its tracks; otherwise, it is no better than after the event. Everybody would have said that that was wrong, and yet it happened.

We all owe a great debt to the security services—they have saved many lives—but now and again, something goes wrong and things are not right. It is because that might happen—very rarely, but it might just happen—that we are concerned about the method of approving this type of activity. That is the argument.

Similarly, with the Pat Finucane case, clearly any of us would have said no. The way that appears to have happened was wrong, and it would not have been allowed. Now we are told that there cannot even be an inquiry into it, for reasons which we will have to look into on another occasion. So I am still worried.

We are dealing with incredibly serious powers: powers to permit criminal activity, which we do not do with any other legislation, as far as I am aware. We are told that this prior approval cannot be given by judges, because judges do not have the insight into human nature that some of the more experienced people would. I do not know very much about judges, although I have had the pleasure of meeting some as colleagues in the House, but I think that, particularly those in criminal law, they have had a great deal of experience of human nature. I would have thought they would be in a good position to make the judgment, as indeed could Secretaries of State, as evidenced by the amendment put forward by my noble friend Lord Hain.

I am not convinced by the arguments against what the human rights committee proposed. I am not convinced that prior approval is not a good idea, whether it is done on the Lord Hain model, the Joint Committee’s model or the Joint Committee’s model as amended by my noble friend Lady Kennedy. All of these are ways of doing it, and I am not convinced that these are not better alternatives than having approval only retrospectively. However, we have had a long debate, and I want to reflect on what has been said before we get to Report. I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Amendment 11 withdrawn.

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Thursday 3rd December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Lexden Portrait The Deputy Chairman of Committees (Lord Lexden) (Con)
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The next speaker on the list, the Lord Bishop of Carlisle, has, sadly, withdrawn, so I call the noble Lord, Lord Dubs.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I was originally not going to be present for this debate, and I left the main thrust of the argument to my noble friend Lady Massey. I simply say that I endorse what the Joint Committee on Human Rights has said, and this has set the pattern for many of the debates this evening. I am fully in support of the arguments put forth by my noble friend Lady Massey.

Baroness Chakrabarti Portrait Baroness Chakrabarti (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Dubs, I can be short in the light of some outstanding contributions that we have heard from Members of your Lordships’ House. The more I listened to those arguments, the more I was convinced that there needs to be some kind of limit on the nature of criminal conduct that can be authorised with—and I repeat—total advance immunity from criminal liability or civil suit. If in Canada, why not here? It was the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich, who dealt with the so-called Sopranos argument on testing with particular dexterity.

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Moved by
39: Clause 1, page 2, leave out lines 45 to 47 and insert—
“(b) consists in conduct—(i) by the person who is so specified or described as the covert human intelligence source to whom the authorisation relates, or(ii) by another person holding an office, rank or position within the public authority making the criminal conduct authorisation, which assists or encourages criminal conduct by the covert human intelligence source to whom the authorisation relates; and”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment clarifies who can be authorised to commit criminal offences.
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, so far we have been debating the nature of the criminal offences that may or may not be authorised. Amendment 39 would clarify who can be authorised to commit criminal offences. As I made clear on earlier amendments, I am a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and my contribution to the debate on this amendment stems from the report by that committee. That report has been referred to by many noble Lords and indeed has almost served as the text for some of the debates. That is a credit to the work of the committee, which I think is very positive and influential.

The committee found the Bill’s definition of what amounts to criminal conduct for the purpose of a CCA “unhelpfully obscure”. It noted, in particular, that it includes conduct in relation to a CHIS. The expression “in relation to” is one of those phrases that can mean almost anything and is capable of all sorts of interpretation, narrow and wide. My noble friend Lord Rosser used a similar phrase which was a bit vague in an earlier debate. I repeat that the expression “in relation to” can mean almost anything.

Why are the Government doing this? I will use an American expression that we all know and which I learned many years ago: mission creep. One sets out to do something but inevitably, in trying to get the powers to do that, one expands what one wants to be able to do, sometimes beyond what is reasonable or could have been envisaged at the outset. This amendment relates to what I would call mission creep on the part of those who drafted the Bill.

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I say again that each situation will be different, but I understand the noble Lord’s point that if the CHIS is acting as instructed, but the handler has gone beyond where they should have gone, it would be the handler’s authorising officer who would be liable for that activity. There would be an investigation, but at that point, we are talking about a theoretical case. If it was the handler who had acted beyond their purview, the handler would be liable for that handling activity, or the authorising officer. It is late, I am tired, and I have suddenly forgotten my thread.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the debate. I have to lead with what the Minister said. I feel that her interpretation of the part of the Bill we are talking about was nearer to the spirit of the amendment than the wording of the clause itself. That is why I want to have a look at it. As for what my noble friend Lord Sikka said, I was not aware that a person in the Bill could be a corporate body. I fear he has an important point, but maybe it is not quite in the scope of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 39 withdrawn.
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Baroness Massey of Darwen Portrait Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I agree with so many of the remarks made today by noble Lords following the powerful and moving opening speech by the noble Lord, Lord Young. I declare my interests as being involved with several voluntary sector organisations and all-party groups for children, and as a rapporteur on children’s rights issues in the Council of Europe.

Amendment 51, in my name and that of my noble friend Lord Dubs, is based on the findings reflected in Chapter 5 of the Joint Committee on Human Rights report on the Bill. The amendment would prohibit the authorisation of criminal conduct by children without specific prior judicial approval. The Bill provides only for the authorisation of criminal conduct by a CHIS and does not make a distinction between adults and children, nor is any distinction drawn between adults and children for the purposes of CCAs within the revised CHIS code of practice. The JCHR report found that:

“It is hard to see how the involvement of children in criminal activity, and certainly serious criminal activity, could comply with the State’s obligations under the HRA and under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child … in anything other than the most exceptional circumstances. Article 3 UNCRC”,


which has already been quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Young,

“provides that: ‘In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.’”

The best interests of the child must be at the core of all our concerns.

The JCHR report concludes:

“Deliberately involving children in the commission of criminal offences could only comply with Article 3 UNCRC or Article 8 ECHR in the most exceptional cases.”


The amendment provides protection against the authorisation of criminal conduct by children in unexceptional cases. It would require prior judicial approval before the granting of a CCA in respect of the conduct of a child in the limited circumstances in which judicial approval would be forthcoming—that is, only where the undercover operation is for the purpose of saving lives or preventing serious physical or mental harm.

I want to add some remarks based on my own experiences and interests that extend the issues expressed in the JCHR report. Children are often characterised as “young” under 16, but the UNCRC and the World Health Organization stipulate that anyone under 18 is a child. That puts an extra dimension on things. We also know that children are not a homogeneous group. Some will be vulnerable. As has been said, they may be subject to having been used for all manner of purposes. They are at significant risk already. This is a very important issue.

The UNCRC is clear about the rights of the child in its 42 articles. For example, Article 36 says that children shall be protected from any activities that could harm their development. Article 12 says that the child’s right to a voice when adults are making decisions is paramount. Child refugees have the same rights as children born in that country. Children have the right to get and share information, as long as that information is not damaging to them or others. That applies to all children. I ask the Minister to convince me that sufficient care is given to the stipulation that the best interests of the child are paramount and to provide some examples of how that care works in practice—for example, about who is consulted as to the appropriateness of a child being involved.

I want to repeat the reference that the noble Lord, Lord Young, made to the Children’s Commissioner; he made a very powerful statement. As she recently said, she suggests that she remains to be convinced that there is ever an appropriate situation in which a child should be used as a CHIS. She has called for a full investigation to take place into the use of children in such circumstances and believes that the current legislative framework should be amended to protect children’s rights. I agree totally. Child impact assessments are always useful. Many of us in this House, and in Parliament generally, have been calling for that for some time. Wales has integrated the UNCRC into its legislation and Scotland is discussing a Bill to do so. When will England do the same?

Before Report, will the Minister meet those of us concerned about child rights, including protection, in relation to the Bill? Can she produce reassuring evidence that children are not being exploited? If that evidence is not forthcoming, the amendment will certainly need strengthening.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, when I originally looked at this Bill and thought about it in relation to children, I felt that there might be some justification for using children as CHIS in the most exceptional circumstances. I am now doing something that is not very fashionable. I am changing my mind in the light of what I have heard in the debate so far, especially from my noble friend Lady Massey and the noble Lord, Lord Young. I now believe that there should be no circumstances in which children should be part of this process. It is wrong and cannot be justified. The highest standards of human rights would be fully met if we said that children should be totally exempt. There should never be any circumstances in which the end would justify the means. I have been persuaded by the argument. Maybe one does not often admit this publicly, but I am prepared to do so here and now.

Baroness Doocey Portrait Baroness Doocey (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I wish to speak in favour of Amendment 52. I too support the comments made about children by previous speakers.

This amendment seeks to place in law safeguards for young people, for those who have been trafficked and for other vulnerable individuals. There is a real risk to vulnerable adults, as well as to children, because victims of modern slavery and trafficking are not always recognised as such. This amendment puts safeguards in place for them, as well as for minors.

I share the same fundamental concern as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Children should not be placed in harm’s way by the state or in the pursuit of any other alleged greater good. It is the job of the state to protect children, not to deploy them as spies.

I want to address directly the argument made on this point by the Minister at Second Reading. She said that, in practice, juveniles are not asked to participate in criminality in which they are not already involved. Surely the fact that children are already involved in crime does not make them any less worthy of protection. We like to say that with rights come responsibilities, but that maxim misunderstands rights. Rights are absolute and children should expect the absolute right to basic protection from this country. That protection should not be contingent on some invented responsibility to help the police by acting as a spy. Children seldom choose to become involved in gangs. Many are vulnerable. Many have been abused. Some are victims of trafficking. Others have been appallingly neglected both by their families and then by the state. It is not right to view them as having chosen a lifestyle of criminality and thereby complicit in their own fate.

Just as the Modern Slavery Act acknowledges that children cannot consent to their own slavery, we should recognise in the Bill that children do not put themselves into these dangerous situations. They should not be asked to take advantage of danger in the interests of police investigations. These young people are at very high risk of long-term physical and emotional harm from the experiences they have already had. Being designated a CHIS puts them at hugely increased risk. I find it indefensible that 16 and 17 year-olds can be brought into this highly dangerous territory of spying for the state with no appropriate adult to help and support them. The age of majority in this country is 18: 16 and 17 year-olds are children and these particular 16 and 17 year-olds are very vulnerable children. It is completely unacceptable for them to be co-opted by the police for spying without the same representation that they would enjoy if they were arrested for some minor offence, such as theft.

The police do a very difficult job. We are all in their debt for protecting us as individuals and as a society. The need to get a result can sometimes blur boundaries in the pursuit of solving a crime or bringing a prosecution. The genre of police drama would scarcely be so rich without the reality that rules can sometimes be bent and occasionally broken.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

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Committee stage & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 4th sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Thursday 10th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Massey of Darwen Portrait Baroness Massey of Darwen (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, has spoken with great clarity and authority on the amendments in this group. I will speak to the human rights perspective of Amendment 63 as set out in the Joint Committee on Human Rights’ report on the legislative scrutiny of the Bill. Chapter 6 is concerned with public authorities granted power to authorise crime, as stated by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick.

Paragraph 75 of the report states:

“We accept that the authorisation of criminal conduct by the security and intelligence services and the police may on occasion be necessary … However, the Bill proposes granting the power to make CCAs … to a substantially wider range of public authorities”.


That concerns us. It goes on:

“This provision of the Bill, coupled with the ability to authorise criminal conduct in the interests of preventing disorder and preserving economic well-being … extends the power to authorise criminal conduct well beyond the core area of national security and serious crime.”


There are two key questions here from a human rights perspective. As the report states,

“the first key question is whether the exceptional power to authorise crimes to be committed without redress is truly necessary for each and every one of these public authorities. The second key question is whether the benefit of granting that power would be proportionate to the human rights interferences that are likely to result.”

The Government have provided little justification for the authorisation of criminal conduct by such bodies as the Gambling Commission, the Food Standards Agency and others. The Home Office published brief guidance and a series of operational case studies, which provide examples of authorisation by CHIS in the cases of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs and other hypothetical examples of where CAAs might be used by the Environment Agency and the Food Standards Agency.

The question must be asked as to why the police or other bodies focused on the prevention of crime should not take full responsibility for authorising criminal conduct that may fall within the purview of these organisations. We are all aware that the police, in carrying out their responsibilities, have vast networks of agencies whom they consult in the course of their duties. They know whom to consult for specific issue as and when such consultation is needed. It is inappropriate and irrelevant to name other specific agencies, whose role is not protecting national security and fighting serious crime.

One of the witnesses to the inquiry carried out by the Joint Committee on Human Rights said:

“If the government believes it is necessary for each of these bodies to have the power to grant authorisations, it should be explicit about whether those bodies already possess non-binding ‘powers’ to authorise the commission of crimes and provide more detail as to how, and how often, those powers are used. In the absence of such an account, there is no reason to accept that all of those bodies require the powers the Bill would give them.”


No such detail is supplied by the Government. It is therefore impossible to assess how agencies whose primary function is not serious crime or national security can, or indeed would want to, be involved formally in granting CCAs. I look forward to the Minister’s explanation.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I support Amendment 63. I very much agree with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, and my noble friend Lady Massey, so I shall be brief.

Like my noble friend, I speak as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It seems to me that authorisation that goes beyond the police, the National Crime Agency, the Serious Fraud Office and the intelligence services is a step too far. There has to be clear indication by the Government as to why such authorisations are necessary; so far, that indication has not been forthcoming. The list of agencies covered by this provision is so wide—not just Customs and Excise, the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency and many other bodies. There is no justification for extending the provisions of the Bill to that extent.

I am very concerned about one other matter. As the Joint Committee on Human Rights noted, under Section 35 of RIPA, the Secretary of State will have the power to make an order adding other public authorities to the list of those permitted to authorise covert criminal conduct. I accept that this power has been used sparingly in the past, but—[Inaudible.]—if additional authorities that have little or no relationship to those permitted to make CCAs—[Inaudible.]—regulatory oversight.

In a previous amendment, the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, indicated that using subordinate legislation to extend powers was going rather too far, and it applies in this instance as well. Surely, it is bad enough having a list of these bodies that—[Inaudible]—but adding to them in the future by a parliamentary process that allows for very limited scrutiny. We all know that subordinate legislation can go through, we cannot amend it and it is—[Inaudible]—because of our relationship with the Commons; therefore, this is potentially an abuse of power. For all those reasons, I support Amendment 63.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

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Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Monday 11th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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This Bill is very dangerous in its current form. It could be improved today, on Report, without doing harm to its overall scheme or to the underlying intention that Ministers have explained time and again. Amendments 1 and 2 are a very easy and simple way in which to improve the Bill. If we allow it to pass unamended today, with this total advance impunity for agents of the state, a great many of them from all sorts of agencies listed in the Bill, we will open the door to countless abuses of power and scandals in relation to criminality, and abuses of human rights, potentially for many years into the future. That is not something that your Lordships’ House ever wants to do lightly.
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, before I speak to the details of Amendment 3 in my name, I will comment briefly on the speech made by my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti. I am totally with her in saying that there are dangers in this Bill, and some of the amendments are very crucial indeed. I also agree with her that we must always be vigilant to protect the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties. Indeed, she has done that all her life, since the time she ran the organisation Liberty in such an effective manner. I have listened hard to what she has said, and I believe that the most effective safeguards would be some kind of prior oversight to check an organisation before it went ahead. I believe that is probably the most important safeguard. I look forward to debating the amendment to that effect in the next group.

In the meantime, I turn to Amendment 3. Its purpose is to amend the Bill so that victims of criminal conduct carried out under a CCA can access compensation. I speak as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and I am very much influenced in my contributions to this debate by the conclusions of the committee’s report, which has been widely praised across the House. The report noted that the Bill as introduced was potentially incompatible with human rights legislation, specifying:

“Article 1 ECHR requires the UK to secure the rights of all those within its jurisdiction, including the rights of victims of crime. Where a crime also amounts to a human rights violation, the victim has a right to an effective remedy under Article 13 ECHR. A victim also has an Article 6 right “to have any claim relating to his or her civil rights and obligations brought before a court or tribunal.’”


People may ask at that point about the criminal injuries compensation scheme. I put it this way: since the Bill would authorise criminal conduct lawful for all purposes, it would prevent a victim of authorised crime vindicating their rights by bringing a civil claim for compensation. Seemingly, this would also prevent a claim for compensation under the criminal injuries compensation scheme. This is not a novel proposal. The amendment is very close to the regime in Australia, which provides

“indemnification for any participant who incurs civil liability in the course of an undercover operation”.

The most usual and commonly quoted example, which my noble friend Lady Chakrabarti mentioned, is when a CHIS is driving a getaway car for a gang at high speed and has an accident. Under the Australian regime, the system would provide indemnification in the course of an undercover operation. In other words, in Australia, a civil claim can be brought against the perpetrator by the victim and compensation secured, but the state will then step in to indemnify the perpetrator against his or her losses. The amendment would ensure that the person authorised to carry out criminal conduct would not suffer the consequences of civil liability. It would also ensure that the victim of that conduct would obtain civil redress, while allowing secrecy to be maintained.

This amendment is fully in keeping with the overall intentions of the Bill, but it would provide an important safeguard. Otherwise, individuals will lose out badly through personal injury or by having their car damaged. At present, they are unable to obtain civil redress, and my amendment would put that right. It is an important but straightforward amendment. The principle is easy and I hope that the Government will find their way to accepting it. I beg to move.

Lord Anderson of Ipswich Portrait Lord Anderson of Ipswich (CB) [V]
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My Lords, I shall speak to my Amendments 21 and 22, which are intended to elucidate and, if necessary, reinforce the provision for criminal responsibility and civil recourse that already exists under the scheme in the Bill. I will start with criminal responsibility, which is the subject of sub-paragraphs (a) and (b) of Amendment 21.

Sub-paragraph (a) seeks confirmation that if a public officer who authorises a criminal conduct authorisation wilfully neglects to perform his duty, or wilfully misconducts himself to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust, he should be open to prosecution for misconduct in public office. The Bill team has kindly confirmed to me in correspondence that nothing in the statute rules out the prosecution of an authorising officer for, for example, misconduct in public office if the authorisation was corruptly granted. I hope the Minister can confirm this when she responds. The concept of corruption is not as narrow as it may sound. It was elucidated last month by the Law Commission, in its report on misconduct in public office, as applying to the circumstances

“where a public office holder knowingly uses or fails to use their public position or power for the purpose of achieving a benefit or detriment, where that behaviour would be considered seriously improper by a ‘reasonable person.’”

There is another purpose to sub-paragraph (a): to clarify that a prosecution for misconduct in public office can be brought without the considerable inconvenience of first needing the CCA that was authorised to be declared a nullity. I believe that this follows from the existing text of RIPA and from the Bill. Section 27 of RIPA states that conduct will be lawful if it is authorised and if it is in accordance with the authorisation, but it does not create an immunity for the authorisation of such conduct. Nor is such an immunity created by the new Section 29B(8), which by its own terms is limited to conduct

“authorised by a criminal conduct authorisation”,

not conduct authorising a criminal conduct authorisation. I hope very much that the Minister will be able to offer me this second assurance as well.

Moving on to sub-paragraph (b), I accept that it may be more problematic to prosecute an authorising officer for the inchoate offences of encouragement, assistance or conspiracy. If the conduct of the CHIS is rendered lawful by Section 27, it is certainly arguable that there is no crime capable of being incited or being the object of a conspiracy. I believe, however, that the Government agree with me that the immunity falls away altogether, with the result that the CHIS can be prosecuted for the authorised crime and the authorising officer prosecuted for the associated inchoate offences if the CCA has first been declared to be a nullity by a competent court. Depending on the circumstances, that court may be the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, the High Court or indeed a criminal court. The Minister and the Bill team have been extremely helpful in explaining—[Inaudible]— and I believe there is nothing between us on this. I should be grateful if the Minister could confirm, thirdly, that this is the Government’s understanding.

Of course, the paper possibility of a prosecution means little if the CPS, Crown Office or PPS are not made aware of the circumstances that may make a prosecution appropriate. Important in this respect, it seems to me, are the powers vested in judicial commissioners under the Investigatory Powers Act. [Inaudible.]

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Moved by
5: Clause 1, page 2, line 8, at end insert—
“(1A) Authorisations granted under this section require judicial approval in accordance with section 29C.”Member’s explanatory statement
This amendment imposes a requirement for prior judicial approval of CCAs (with provision for urgent cases), and relates to the amendment to Clause 1, page 3, line 16 in the name of Lord Dubs.
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, in moving Amendment 5, I shall speak also to Amendment 23, which is grouped with it. I intend to seek the opinion of the House, unless I get a dramatic concession from the Minister at the end of the debate.

These amendments impose a requirement for prior judicial approval of criminal conduct authorisations, with some provision for urgent cases. I speak as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. Our report, which has been widely applauded in this and previous debates on the Bill, has obviously been very helpful, and I am using a lot of information from it. I am also grateful to Justice, which provided a comprehensive report, with proposals for amendments. I am grateful to the Minister, who arranged for my noble friend Lady Massey and myself to have a briefing with some of the officials and senior police officers. We had a detailed discussion, and although it was directed at amendments relating to children which will be discussed on Wednesday, some of it is nevertheless relevant to the amendments that I am proposing today. I think I may quote from that without pre-empting the discussion about children on Wednesday.

The Government claim that prior judicial authorisation is not necessary because:

“The use of CHIS requires deep expertise and close consideration of the personal qualities of that CHIS, which then enables very precise and safe tasking.”—[Official Report, Commons, 5/10/20; col. 662.]


As I understand it, the Government believe that authorisations are better left to public authorities’ delegated authorising officers, who are, supposedly, more equipped to deal with CHIS than judicial commissioners, who are one step away.

However, the noble Lord, Lord Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, who has been quoted more than once in this debate, said:

“There is no comfort in allowing senior figures in the police or the intelligence agencies the power to sanction lawbreaking, without the need to first obtain independent warrants from judges or some other authority.”


That seems pretty clear.

The use of prior judicial authorisation has, of course, been discussed in the past in relation to RIPA. But in 2016, the European Court of Human Rights held that judicial authorisation

“offers the best guarantees of independence, impartiality and proper procedure.”

This is particularly pertinent to surveillance, which is,

“a field where abuse is potentially so easy in individual cases and could have such harmful consequences for democratic society”.

The court concluded that

“it is in principle desirable to entrust supervisory control to a judge”.

That is part of the basis of this amendment.

Concerns about whether this is feasible do not carry much weight. There is no reason why judicial commissioners could not review CCAs; they are already well-practised in making complex assessments of sensitive material in an independent, detached manner and at short notice, and they are always very senior judicial figures.

The Select Committee looked at all this. It is very clear that the Bill does not provide for any independent scrutiny of criminal conduct authorisations before they are made and acted upon. The report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights noted that, while the process of granting criminal conduct authorisations would be kept under review by the Investigatory Powers Commissioner, his

“role in the oversight of CCAs is entirely ‘after the event’ … nor does the Bill provide for the IPC to be informed of authorisations at the time they are made, so that prompt scrutiny can take place.”

The report further noted:

“The lack of prior independent scrutiny for CCAs under the Bill stands in marked contrast to the procedures in place for other investigatory functions”,


such as police search warrants and phone tapping. The former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald—as he then was—has been quoted several times as saying that:

“Under this bill it will be easier for a police officer to commit a serious crime than to tap a phone or search a shed.”


This has been quoted so often it must go in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations. The argument in favour of judicial approval is there.

I refer to the Pat Finucane case in Northern Ireland—one of a number of cases—which is also mentioned in the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. There was a real abuse of powers which under my amendment would, I am pretty sure, have been prevented by a judicial commissioner. That case is very much unfinished business. Indeed, there is a plea, which I fully support, for a full independent review of what happened when Patrick Finucane was murdered by, or with the knowledge of, British agents. That is business for another day but, in the meantime, we have this amendment.

Some of these amendments are so crucial to the working of the Bill that it is difficult not to tread from one into the area of another, but this amendment is fundamental. Prior judicial approval for a CCA is absolutely essential to providing the safeguards which were referred to in the previous debate and which we need before we can allow such a Bill to become law in this country. I beg to move.

Lord Hain Portrait Lord Hain (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 16 in my name and those of my noble friend Lord Blunkett, a former Home Secretary, the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, and the noble Baroness, Lady Wheatcroft, to each of whom I am grateful. It is a very straightforward amendment that would add confidence to the deployment of state-employed undercover officers by ensuring that each had to be authorised by a Secretary of State in exactly the same way as existing legislation requires for surveillance operations.

My noble friend Lord Blunkett and I both signed hundreds of warrants for surveillance operations under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, which was updated by this Conservative Government in the Investigatory Powers Act 2016, at a time when the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, was a government Minister, even if not in her current role. In other words, she and her Conservative Government re-enacted legislation requiring Secretary of State authorisation for surveillance, and so it is a puzzle to me why Ministers have not accepted this amendment.

The amendment endorses the identical principle for CHIS or undercover officer deployment in a way that would add to public confidence, which has been badly damaged by evidence that led to the current inquiry on undercover officers established by Prime Minister Theresa May and chaired by Sir John Mitting, a former High Court judge. It was established because the Conservative Government—in which the noble Baroness was a Home Office Minister at the time—felt undercover policing had got out of control and needed to be made more accountable.

The abuses so far revealed in the inquiry’s proceedings fully justify the Conservative Government’s decision to launch it. I will mention only several. We have learned that the campaign by the noble Baroness, Lady Lawrence, and her family to discover the truth about her son Stephen’s brutal racist murder was outrageously infiltrated by undercover officers. Why were they not instead targeting the racist criminals responsible for Stephen’s murder? If that deployment had been subject to authorisation by the Home Secretary, would it have happened? I very much doubt it, because surely a question would have been asked of the operational police decision as to why the innocent victims of a vicious racist murder were being targeted and not the criminals responsible.

There are many other examples, including my own personal experience. As confirmed by evidence given to the Mitting inquiry, from 1969 to 1970, a British police or security service officer was at almost every anti-apartheid and anti-racist meeting that I attended, private or public, innocuous and routine, or serious and strategic, such as stopping all white apartheid sports tours and combatting pro-Nazi activity. Why were they not targeting Nazi groups responsible for attacks on black people, Jewish citizens and Muslims?

Why were they not targeting the criminal actions of the apartheid state responsible for, among other things, fire-bombing the London offices of Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in March 1982 and, in 1970, murdering South African journalist Keith Wallace, who had threatened to expose the apartheid security service operations in the UK? In June 1972, why did they show no interest whatever in discovering who in South Africa’s Bureau of State Security sent me a letter bomb capable of killing me, similar to those that had killed anti-apartheid leaders across the world?

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister has already been congratulated on her mastery of the detail. I congratulate her also on her physical and intellectual stamina. It has been quite a tour de force, particularly as I know what other business she has this week and on most days.

As someone who has had no security experience, I have found this a fascinating debate. I had very limited experience when I was a Minister in Northern Ireland. When I first got there, we had to sign extensions to hold people in detention under the terrorism legislation, although that was quickly handed over to judges. That was my primary direct experience, but it gave me an understanding of the security situation in Northern Ireland before and after the ceasefire. However, I bow to the greater experience of those who have strong security experience and indeed those who have strong experience of having—[Inaudible.].

I still believe that there is quite a strong thread of support in the debate for prior judicial authorisation. The “prior” bit has not really been hit on the head, despite the merits of some of the other arguments relating to other amendments. In the circumstances, and without my going through all the arguments—it is much too late for that—I would like to test the opinion of the House.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill Debate

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Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Wednesday 13th January 2021

(3 years, 4 months ago)

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I am very grateful to the broad coalition of noble Lords who are clearly against the use of child spies. All the amendments are cross-party, which should give the Government some pause for thought. If there is so much feeling about this issue among a mixed bunch of Peers, I think they should go a little further than their attempt with Amendment 26. Therefore, I urge the noble Lord, Lord Young, to push his amendment to a vote, but I shall understand if he objects to doing that, in which case I shall support Amendment 24.
Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a privilege to take part in the debate on this amendment, with the many excellent speeches that we have had so far.

First, I thank the Minister for having arranged for my noble friend Lady Massey and me to meet some of her officials and police officers, and for the opportunity to have a long debate about the issues concerning children.

In introducing Amendment 12, the noble Lord, Lord Young, referred to the fact that I changed my mind in Committee, as though that was a very eccentric thing to do. I thought that the point of debates was to persuade other people to change their minds. He is absolutely right: I did change my mind—from a relative position to an absolute position on children not being used as CHIS—so I thank him for referring to that.

My noble friend Lady Massey set out the ground extremely well, competently and coherently. She and I are both members of the Joint Committee on Human Rights and, in a way, she has spoken for me as well, so I shall make only a few brief comments in support. I also welcomed the very powerful speech of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, although her amendment does not go as far as I would like. My preference is to fully support the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Young.

I have three points to make. The first concerns the safety and well-being of children, the second is to do with mental health and the third concerns informed consent, and I want to say a brief word about each.

First, it is slightly curious that public authorities whose job it is to protect the welfare, well-being and safety of children should also, in a sense, be complicit in authorising or encouraging them to commit criminal offences. I fear that involving children as CHIS can damage their welfare and safety, and cause them harm in their lives many years later. We are subjecting them to enormous pressures by doing this and I am not happy about it.

Secondly, as an extension of that argument, there is the question of mental health. We are talking about young people who must, in the main, be extremely vulnerable. Very often they have deprived backgrounds, they have not had much going for them and they have suffered physically and emotionally. The mental health considerations seem sufficiently serious for us to say that we do not want to use children in this way.

Thirdly, there is the question of informed consent. My understanding is that, before anybody can become a CHIS, they have to give their informed consent. I just wonder whether a young person who is vulnerable, already involved in criminality, not sure of themselves in life and possibly with mental health problems can give their informed consent to taking part in these activities. How can a young person understand the full implications of going along with this? It seems a crucial step and they could be damaged for many years; indeed, they might never recover. It is a dangerous thing to ask them to do and I would prefer that we did not do so.

That is why my first preference, if I may put it that way, is for the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Young. My second preference is for Amendment 14, in the name of my noble friend Lady Massey. My third preference is to support the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. I do not think that we can leave the Bill as it is. It is unacceptable that we should subject young people to such a dangerous situation. It is not a healthy or proper thing to do, and I hope that we will agree to one of the amendments—preferably that of the noble Lord, Lord Young.

Baroness McIntosh of Pickering Portrait Baroness McIntosh of Pickering (Con) [V]
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My Lords, this is a fascinating debate. I thank the Minister for bringing forward her Amendment 26 and for the opportunity that she gave me to speak to professionals, particularly the police, operating in this field.

My starting point is obviously the same as that of others: Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the protection of the interests of the child. I find myself in agreement with paragraph 63 of the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. It concludes:

“The Bill must be amended to exclude children or”—


I agree in particular with this part—

“to make clear that children can only be authorised to commit criminal offences in the most exceptional circumstances.”

Of course, it is entirely regrettable that we might have to rely on children—those below the age of 18 and sometimes, as we heard in Committee and today, over the age of 12—in any shape or form. However, I remember from the limited time I spent in practice at the Scottish Bar that it was impressed on me that there are such circumstances. For the purposes of today’s debate, there are two separate circumstances that we need to focus on.

One is where a child might be asked to put themselves in a situation of risk—a situation that would rely even more on their consent than might otherwise be the case. But the situation that I think we should especially cover is where a child might already be in a situation of great risk to themselves or to their near family, particularly if they are migrants and are at risk of exploitation through trafficking for whatever reason—for example, modern-day slavery and sexual exploitation. I do not believe that currently the voices of those children are always heard. If they seek out a situation where they are prepared to keep themselves in harm’s way for the purposes of bringing evidence to the police and other authorities to enable and facilitate a successful prosecution, it would be absolutely mad for them to extricate themselves from that situation, provided they are given protections. Therefore, reluctantly, I accept that there are situations where children under the age of 18, and sometimes as young as 12, are already at risk but are doing themselves, their immediate peers, who might also be in that position, and indeed the justice system a great service by empowering evidence to be brought forward and to bring a successful prosecution.

I know that my noble friend Lord Young has put an enormous amount of work into his amendments, but the problem that I have—I think he recognises this himself—is that Amendment 12 is simply too prescriptive both on age, as it would remove this cohort of children between 12 and 18 completely, and in that it does not enable them to be used as CHIS in limited circumstances, provided the protections are there. I do not believe that Amendments 12, 13 and 14 lend themselves to the situation that already exists and which I would like to see continue, provided the protections are in place.

That brings me to Amendments 24 and 26. Here, I am entirely in the hands of my noble friend the Minister, who will need to convince me that her Amendment 26 is as good as Amendment 24 in providing protections in the situation which I have set out and which I would like to see put in place in these circumstances. Normally, I would be minded to support Amendment 26, but I will be unable to do so unless she is unable to convince me that the protections clearly set out in Amendment 24 will be in place.

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Lord Bruce of Bennachie Portrait Lord Bruce of Bennachie (LD) [V]
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My Lords, I have not intervened on the Bill to date. It has been well-served by the wide range of expertise across the House. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, and the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, for their coherent explanations of support for this amendment. My brief intervention now is in the light of the Scottish Government’s current withholding of consent to the Bill. I appreciate that the first response to that action might be to dismiss it, as it is consistent with the Scottish Government’s reaction to other consent issues.

However, while the Scottish Justice Minister Humza Yousaf accepts that there is a case for the law, he is concerned that the Bill is drawn too widely and lacks adequate safeguards. His views are entirely consistent with the concerns expressed across the House. He has explained his preference for prior approval by a judicial commissioner, which has been debated and raised responses, although that consideration is still being argued. This amendment, coupled with that which was carried on Monday inserting an expectation of reasonableness, would go some way to addressing these understandable concerns.

It is widely understood and accepted that undercover agents operate to protect the state and its citizens from hostile actions. This necessitates behaviour that, in normal circumstances, might be considered criminal. Both operatives and citizens need to be reassured that actions will be reasonable and proportionate, and that this is not a gratuitous licence. A number of cases where actions were not deemed appropriate have been mentioned in our debates, but so has an understanding that undercover agents carry out vital work that saves lives. The law needs to protect them in their duties—we are talking of the police and Prison Service, in Scotland—and people who might be directly affected by their actions.

It is also clear, as asserted in all contributions to the debate so far, that the Human Rights Act alone is not an adequate safeguard. As an aside, it does not apply to British sovereign bases in Cyprus, for example. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, despite his reservations about some of this amendment’s wording, clearly recognised the need to have human rights issues summarised and incorporated in the legislation. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made the same case and the interesting comparison that, as the Human Rights Act is well known, there is no reason for not putting these specific exclusions in the Bill.

As was said by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, this amendment’s terms are similar to those in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act 1985. Can the Minister indicate whether Canada has experienced any problems with this element of its law, which has been in place for some years? After all, to commit murder, to inflict serious injury deliberately or to perpetrate rape, sexual offences, torture or imprisonment is not what we could reasonably expect of our agents.

I understand that, as of today, the Scottish Minister does not yet consider that the Bill is ready for him to recommend, and this amendment alone will not do it. He is still looking for amendments to the Regulation of Investigatory Powers (Scotland) Act 2000. Can the Minister indicate whether the concerns of the Scottish Minister can be met and the Government’s view about those reservations? I do not believe the citizens of the United Kingdom would argue for a lower standard than that set by a close and valued ally and friend, such as Canada. I am sure that the Minister will want to give assurance that the safeguards are adequate and sufficient, and in so doing ensure that this law secures the consent of all parts of the UK.

In conclusion, I can say only that the balance that the Bill is striving for has raised legitimate questions and concerns about a whole range of issues, of which this is just one. The reservations of both the Government and Parliament of Scotland are, I am told in good faith, a desire to ensure that the Bill is structured in a way that meets the objectives of the Government but also the safeguards being sought by Members of this House and the Scottish Parliament. In those circumstances, I hope the Minister can assure us that it will be possible to bridge that gap, because it would surely be far better for the Bill to be passed with the consent of the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament than not.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the amendment. I speak, of course, as a member of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, a position I share with my noble friend Lady Massey, and her amendment reflects very effectively the concerns of the committee about this issue—although the committee was, of course, also concerned by a whole range of other aspects of the Bill.

I can be very brief, but it can surely never be right for the state to authorise the gravest of crimes: torture, murder or extremes of sexual violence. That is the basis of this amendment, which I therefore fully support.

The Government have said that if we set limits on the offences to be covered by the Bill, that will risk that agents could be tested by the groups that they have infiltrated—in other words, that they would then challenge the CHIS, if they suspect them to be a CHIS, to commit one of those offences and therefore he or she would be revealed. As has already been said, other countries have the same safeguards: the United States, Australia and Canada. They already place express limits on the crimes CHIS can commit. If that works for the security services in Australia, the United States and Canada, it can surely apply to us.

The Government have said that the limits can be safeguarded by the Human Rights Act. Frankly, that is not certain at all. The Government have been hesitant about the Human Rights Act anyway, and I believe—the Minister may confirm this—that the Human Rights Act does not apply to abuses committed by agents of the Government. There is concern that this aspect of the Bill may be relevant to criminal conduct authorised overseas. That is a very dangerous situation indeed, and again I would welcome the chance to hear from the Minister whether or not that is so.

The Government produced comments on the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, and in particular said that we cannot go down the path of Canada, the United States and Australia because they are not under the European Convention on Human Rights and we are. That is not a straightforward argument. Canada has its own version of the European Convention on Human Rights and the United States has its own Bill of Rights, so it would be wrong to say that they are not protected by a human rights convention such as covers us. That is not a very good argument. In any case, in the United States, the FBI, as we are learning from the events of last week, has thousands of agents each year operating within terrorist and mafia groups which pose grave threats to the public, yet the United States places express limits on what crimes the FBI’s covert agents can commit.

The amendment is a proper one; it is a proper safeguard; it is something that those of us who believe in human rights would say ought to be there. We need the extra protection of the amendment: the Human Rights Act itself is not sufficient.

Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con) [V]
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My Lords, like the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope of Craighead, I believe the amendment could be improved; nevertheless, like him, I support it. I support its basic principle. I support what the noble Baroness, Lady Massey of Darwen, said.

I was very glad the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, began by paying tribute to the police and those who keep us safe, following that splendidly spirited speech from the noble Baroness, Lady Manningham-Buller, on Monday, when she talked about the bravery of many who serve in the Secret Service. All that I endorse, but it cannot be right for the state to connive at the committing of heinous crimes: rape, murder or torture. I tabled an amendment in Committee specifically citing those crimes. When I saw the amendment of the noble Baroness, Lady Massey, on the Order Paper, I decided not to resubmit mine because she seemed to have covered it.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, made a wonderful forensic demolition of the Government’s citing support for resisting amendments such as this from the Human Rights Act. That really does not wash. I am bound to say that, in the various conversations I had with officials in the Home Office—I again thank my noble friend for making them possible—the only area where I felt the defence was very weak was in the opposition to an amendment along these lines. We have heard colleagues cite Canada and Australia, and again surely we cannot say that what has worked for almost 40 years in Canada without any apparent obstacle could not work here.

We are a civilised country that always proclaims its belief in the rule of law, the prime requirement of which is to defend all our citizens—hence this unpleasant but necessary Bill—and I submit to your Lordships that it would be completely wrong not to have a brake on the powers that a CHIS can be given. We have seen in the rather unpleasant stories that have come out in the recent inquiry, where women have been seduced when organisations that do not place the state in danger have been infiltrated, that things can get out of hand. I do not want to be part of any endorsement of the commission of murder, rape or torture. That is why, although I believe the amendment can be improved during ping-pong, if it is put to the vote, I will support it.

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Lord Cormack Portrait Lord Cormack (Con) [V]
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My Lords, I first raised this issue at Second Reading and I tabled an amendment in Committee.

I very rarely disagree with my noble friend Lady McIntosh of Pickering, but the logic of her argument is that you cannot tackle crime without giving a multitude of bodies the opportunity to enlist people to commit crime. I just do not accept that. I have deleted the bottom five organisations in the list—the ones on which, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, said in her admirable introduction, people have focused most attention by asking, “Why are they there?”

I completely understand the argument about police forces and the National Crime Agency, et cetera. Having had conversations with officials in the Home Office and HMRC, I even understand the introduction of HMRC into the Bill, but, for the life of me, I just cannot see why, as the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, said a moment or two ago, police forces cannot deal with such bodies as the Environment Agency, the Food Standards Agency and the Gambling Commission.

Having a proliferation of bodies that are able to sanction people to commit crimes sends out a very bad signal. We take pride in our police forces and they should of course have the resources necessary to investigate all manner of crimes. People who commit crimes, whether within the orbit of the Environment Agency or the Food Standards Agency, should be brought to justice and punished if they are found guilty. But I just do not see a justification for this long list in the Bill. I very much hope that, when the Minister comes to reply, she will be able to convert and convince me, but I really do not think that she will. Whether I move my amendment to a vote will depend on what I hear, but I give notice that I might.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, particularly as on this occasion, as quite often, I find myself in agreement with him.

When I listened to the noble Baroness, Lady McIntosh, I initially thought that there was something in her argument. Then I pondered again for a moment or two and decided that this was not an acceptable way of going forward, particularly as we could get into the position of mentioning a lot of other agencies and public bodies, all of which might have a similar claim to being included in the Bill as some of these have. It is going too far. When this issue got to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, we were quite puzzled by it all. I noticed that the media—certainly the national newspapers —had fun at the expense of the list.

I do not think that we can justify it. If we said that every public body had the right to be included in the list, that would be absurd. We should confine ourselves to bodies that deal with fighting serious crime and terrorism—major national and security issues. As I said, I think that this has gone too far. When I first heard about the list, I was not inclined to take it too seriously, but then I saw it on page 4 of the Bill. It does not seem to be a good idea, and I very much hope that we will pass one of the amendments that cleans up the list and makes it smaller and more sensible.